(I always start out strong when I'm coming back to blogging. One of these times it is bound to stick.)
Sunday will be my first time preaching since leaving to give birth to Pearl and spend some amazing time at home with her. "Before I formed you in your mother's womb..." "Before you were born..." I guess I can't ignore these words in the lectionary. They hit kind of close to home. She's only be here about 12 1/2 weeks, but it is already hard to remember what it was like before she was born. It's been almost a year since we knew she was coming, but in a sense she's been a part of us since before that. Before she was formed in my womb, well before she was born, we knew we would want a third child. She was a part of us before she was here; she was being planned for before she ever existed. We didn't know who she would look like. We didn't know what her personality would be. We didn't know she would have LadyPrincess's reddish newborn hair or Godzilla's huge huge eyes. We didn't know she would THANKFULLY sleep as hard as her mom and dad, but before she was born, before she was formed in my womb, we knew she would be in our family.
What happens if Yahweh's words to Jeremiah don't just apply to him? We accept that to be true in many different ways. As Henry Langknecht points out "This aspect of the passage has been cited in Christian deliberations about such varied issues as abortion, predestination, and whether or not God has "a plan (including a particular vocation) for my life." We accept that this call isn't just Jeremiah's, but applies to any of us in our walk with Christ. But what happens if these words aren't just for Jeremiah and aren't just for each of us, but if they are for all of us? Together. The church. This church.
Now the word of the LORD came to First Presbyterian Church in Cute Midwestern Town saying, "Before I formed you in the the womb I knew you. Before you were a thought in the mind of the new settlers I knew you existed. Before you were born I consecrated you. Before you built the old building downtown I blessed you. I appointed you a prophet to the town, to the state, to the nations!" What does it mean for who we are and what we do that God has been here before us hoping for us to be here, too? And what is it we have been appointed to do?
That is an important task for this church and any church, to discover and, if needed, recover our purpose and our calling. Jeremiah had a particular calling as a prophet to Judah and Jerusalem. We, too, have a particular calling from God.
In the 9th grade I played in the Hot State All-State Orchestra under the direction of a brilliant conductor and inspiring leader. On our last day of rehearsal, right before we began the last run through we would play of the William Tell Overture before our final concert, Maestro spoke to us about this experience. "Never again," he said, "will this moment exist. Never again will this orchestra play. Even if we had a reunion 10 years from now, some of you wouldn't come. You might have a conflict in your calendar, or something tragic may keep you from coming. Never again will this exact orchestra be assembled to play this piece, so play it like you were made to play it."
This church has been here for over 150 years. The faces in the congregation have changed year to year, and will continue to change as some saints pass into God's glory and new saints are born into our family or join us along their journeys. But before we were formed in the womb God knew us. Before we were born into this time God consecrated us. God has appointed us as a garden of refuge and welcome and healing on this earth. Let's minister like we were made to minister.